How to choose a pillow for the perfect night’s sleep

Find the right pillow for you and your sleeping position with our helpful buying guide.

How to choose a pillow

by Lorna White |

We all have our own individual sleeping position we find comfortable. And whether you prefer sleeping on one pillow or two, having the right pillow to support your sleeping position throughout the night is a bedroom essential we should all be investing in.

With so many pillows on the market, finding the perfect one for you can feel like an impossible task, especially when shopping online.

To help make life a little easier for you, we've put together a helpful buying guide, covering everything from the fabric, size, filling and firmness, plus tips on picking a pillow based on your sleeping position.

Choosing the right pillow size for your bed and sleeping position

Pillows tend to come in three different sizes:

Standard (L75cm x W50cm) -** Your standard pillow is ideal for a single or double sized bed. It's rectangular in shape and will fit a standard sized or Oxford sized pillow case (the Oxford has the extra boarder on the case).

Suitable for: Back sleepers and side sleepers

Kingsize (L90cm x W50cm) - These are larger sized pillows that are most commonly used in the States. These are better suited to larger beds from Kingsize up. You might find your standard pillows look a bit too small on your bigger bed, so it's worth sizing up to some kingsize pillows.

Suitable for: Back sleepers and side sleepers

Square (L65cm x W65cm) - You most commonly find square shaped pillows, or European pillows as they're sometimes called, in hotels as they look quite stylish and modern. Although they're not ideal for sleeping on, they look fabulous on any bed, and they're also great for propping you up in bed, or a great addition of some height if you're struggling to breath at all while sleeping.

Finding the right filling and firmness for your pillow

Pillows can be filled with a huge variety of fibres and materials, and this is often where things can get a little overwhelming.

woman sleeping on pillow

Down pillows

These are usually filled with duck or goose clusters that sit under a birds feathers. They feel super soft to lie into, almost cloud like, but they do have their downsides (pardon the pun).

Pros:

Good quality

Soft (goose tends to be the softer option over duck)

Puff up easily

Cons:

Ethically problematic - check the ethical credentials of the company before you buy

Expensive

Can bring on allergies

Feather pillows

Cheaper than down but still offering that luxury feeling, feather pillows are again most commonly made from duck or goose pillows.

Pros:

More affordable than down

Slightly more supportive and firmer than down

Luxurious feel

Cons:

Overtime, feathers can drift and sometimes end up poking through the pillow

Can go flat overtime

Ethically problematic like down

Can bring on allergies

Memory foam

These are really popular pillows thanks to how supportive they are.

Pros:

Can mould around your neck and shoulders

Great for people who suffer with head, shoulder and neck pain

Less harmful on the environment than other pillow types

Cons:

Retains heat so can cause overheating at night

Can have a chemical smell when bought new

Synthetic microfibres

Pros:

Inexpensive

Lightweight

Good for people with allergies

Cons:

Highly static

Don't mould around your head contours

Can cause overheating

Organic wool

Pros:

Environmentally friendly

Anti-allergenic

Supportive

Temperature regulating

Cons:

Heavy

Expensive

Difficult to wash

Tencel

Pros:

Durable

Breathable

Soft to touch

Cons:

More expensive

More susceptible to mildew than other fabrics

If you suffer from allergies

Contrary to popular belief it's not always the fibres of the filling that can set our allergies off. As disgusting as it sounds, our pillows are magnets for dust mites, which are responsible for setting off most allergies in the night.

They are particularly drawn to pillowed filled with natural fibres such as down and feathers, but there are a few things you can do to combat the dust mites.

Firstly, if you have a pillow protector, be sure to wash it on a regular basis to avoid build up of mites. It's also worth noting that some expensive feather pillows are filled with mite-repellent treated feathers, which can in some cases help.

If however you are really struggling, it's most definitely worth buying an anti-allergy pillow, as these shouldn't set off your allergies.

How to find the best pillow for my sleeping position

side-sleeper

Best for side sleepers

To ensure side sleepers get enough support to keep their head, neck and spine aligned while they sleep, they need plenty support from their pillow. That's why a firm, microfibre pillow normally suits side sleepers the best . If you're not keen on a firm pillow, you might find a flatter pillow more comfortable, to help keep your spine aligned.

Best for back sleepers

This is considered the best position to sleep in if you can. Back sleepers don't often need much support to keep their spine and neck supported, as long as they sleep on a supportive mattress, meaning most fills are ideal for back sleepers.

Best for front sleepers

Sleeping on your front can put a lot of pressure on your spine and neck, but the right pillow can help ease any aches and pains. The flatter the better when it comes to front sleepers, and a thin microfibre pillow works best.

Other kinds of pillows to consider

If you're still struggling to find the right pillow for you, there are other kinds of pillow you might want to try out.

Body pillows

Most commonly used for pregnant women in the later stages of pregnancy, body pillows are long, firm pillows that you can cuddle as you sleep. They're great for side sleepers to help give your whole body support.

Leg pillows

These small pillows are designed to fit into the contours of the leg, and sit comfortable between the knees. They promote spinal alignment for side sleepers, and they're great if you're a side sleeper with a firm, high pillow. They also help to relieve any pressure on the hips too.

Orthopaedic pillows

An orthopaedic pillow is ideal if you're regularly struggling with a stiff neck, back pain and headaches as a result of built up tension while you sleep. They're firm, super supportive and contour around your upper body to protect your spinal alignment. They may take some getting used to because of the firmness, but your neck and back will thank you in the long run.

Cooling pillows

These are great if you find you overheat at night or struggle to sleep in the summer months. They work to be breathable and wick away moisture quickly to keep you as cool as possible.

Taking care of your pillows

Did you know that the general advice is to replace your pillows every year to 18 months? This is often not an affordable option for many of us, so there are many ways you can extent the life of your pillow.

Make sure you invest in a good pillow protector that you clean on a regular basis. You should also aim to clean your pillow every six months, following the washing instructions closely to keep the filling in tip top shape. If you're unsure, you may choose to have your pillow professionally cleaned instead.

Every morning, make an effort to fluff your pillows (unless they 're memory foam) to keep them in tip top shape.

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